The Isle of Carna is a privately owned island on the west coast of Scotland. It’s currently undergoing a transformation, as it used to be agricultural but is now being re-wilded. Heather Devey, owner of Wild Intrigue, visiting ecologist and a lecturer at the University of Cumbria, and Cain Scrimgeour a wildlife filmmaker and visiting ecologists brought five students from the University of Cumbria studying Wildlife Media, including myself Freya Steele to the Isle of Carna.
Wild Intrigue is a company that runs expeditions to wild places to inspire university students to get involved with researching and recording wildlife to find out what species are on the islands and to identify different habitats. Heather and Cain have being visiting the Island for three years now and have realised how special it is. They have seen how the wildlife is constantly changing and noticed that it is an inspiring landscape. There is so much yet to be discovered on the island. We as students visiting Carna are saving the world one step at a time by making films and blogs to educate the world about secret magical islands such as Carna.
When on Carna myself and my fellow wildlife students; Verity, Lequane, Rebecca and Zahra were working towards a John Muir award at discovery level. This award includes discovering a wild place, exploring it and conserving it, which we did by using old and new skills to research and discover wildlife. John Muir was instrumental in discovering national parks. While Isle of Carna is not a national park it does receive protection. Loch Sunart, which is the area of water surrounding the island, is a site of scientific interest (SSSI) and a marine protected area. Using the research we find, Heather and Cain will write a report to give to Andy Jackson at Ardnamurchan Charters and to Harry Towers whose family own the island, so they can put management practice into place to insure the island is protected. For example Andy wants to organise a scuba exploration to map out Loch Sunart’s marine wildlife.
We implemented various methods in terms of wildlife surveying. We learnt how to set camera traps, using the Bushnell HD live view trap. We were taught how to track wildlife by identifying paths made by animals through footprints, spraint and faeces. We learnt how to use a Longworth trap to catch small mammals to weigh and mark them to see what the population density is. Doing this we found a wood mouse with nipples, this told us that there are breeding females on the island. We learnt how to use a magenta four-bat detector and discovered common Pipistrelle bats. We found huge owl pellets and dissected them, doing this we found a rat’s jaw bone which may mean that there are rats on the island. We also learnt how to time-lapse and how to set up a hide to observe and record wildlife and the environment on the island.
We carried out a shoreline survey discovering; moon jellyfish, urchins, crabs, nudibranch, starfish, butterfish, bladder-wrack, flat-wrack, edible-wrack, knotted-wrack, hermit crab, common blenny, saw-wrack, sea-mat, sepulid worm, shore crab and small winkle.
While using our new skills, on land we discovered an abundant amount of wildlife including; common gulls, buzzards, red breasted mergansers, hooded crows, otter, barn owls, oyster catchers, lesser red poll, common tern, common frog, common seals, green veined butterfly, chaffinch, song thrush, drinker moth caterpillars, white tailed eagles, golden eagle, meadow pipet, willow warbler, porpoise, wren, cuckoo, shags wood mouse, wild goats, kestrel, common sandpiper, cormorant, great black-backed gull, heron, rock pipit, common pipistrelle, common sandpiper, herring gull, hares tail, bog myrtle, wood sorrel, pignut and sundew. We also heard a tawny owl, grasshopper warbler, robin and a snipe drumming.
Being on the Isle of Carna has taught me plenty of new skills, techniques and has left me feeling a lot more intrigued by wildlife. Keep an eye out on this space for more blogs on my time in Carna blogs.